I am referring to last week’s arrest of various Pakistani students in Manchester and elsewhere and the North-West and the statement from Police that a major terrorist incident was just about to take place in Manchester (within days in fact). Amongst venues mentioned were the Trafford Centre, the Arndale Centre and the Birdcage Club.
Now, why am I not sighing with relief and praising Police for their prompt action?? Well for a start, after the recent G20 business, when the Police blatantly lied over the circumstances around the death of Ian Tomlinson, I no longer believe anything they say. It’s not as if that was the first time; repeatedly we get stories from Police forces which subsequently turn out to be complete porkies, from the events around the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes to the ’70 Police injured by protestors at Kingsnorth’.
Regarding these arrests, on the one hand we are told they are being speeded up because a careless chief Plod in London displayed the secret details to the cameras, on the other hand we are told bombs could have gone off this weekend (in which case how much longer where they going to leave it?). Nor should we be too Quick to see this as a cock-up – maybe it’s something more sinister as former British Ambassador Craig Murray points out.
According to a friend of my son, the Trafford Centre was swarming with police last Saturday; I went into the centre of Manchester (I avoid the Trafford Centre like the plague) and found it all quiet on the police presence front. Proves nothing either way.
It gives me no pleasure to feel this total lack of confidence. I am not naïve, I know there are violent extremists out there with the intention of committing murder and mayhem. But I am confident of some things:
- the suspicion and hostility shown to Muslims in our society, and the clamour on behalf of the police and others for longer detention without charge, will increase the risk of a violent response
- a police force which shows contempt for the truth time and again (in incidents ranging from the Hillsborough tragedy 20 years ago to the ‘Ricin plot’) has a diminishing chance of public belief and co-operation if and when there is a genuine terrorist incident
- there is far far more chance of being killed in a road accident in this country (and most countries) than by an act of terrorism.
So in conclusion no I don’t think we’ve had a lucky escape on this one.